For a time, Warlock was the weakest class by a sizable measure. After getting middling to terrible cards in Un’goro, it couldn’t compete in the early months of the Year of the Mammoth. But then came a lifeline. Two subsequent expansions gave Warlock some of the most powerful cards the class has ever seen. But no good thing lasts forever, and the lease on Warlock’s incredible Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kobolds, and Catacombs cards are about to come due.
This leaves Team 5 with a question: How can Warlock survive after rotation? And how can the class be prepared for this without becoming overpowered?
The Frozen Throne Lifeline
Warlock got a whole bevy of extremely powerful cards in Knights of the Frozen Throne. But while it’s easy to blame Blizzard for the mathematically overpowered cards of Defile and Bloodreaver Gul’dan, it’s important to remember the absolutely abysmal state of the class prior to it. Handlock was long dead, Zoo struggled, and Control Warlock lacked any real reason to exist.
And even after Knights of the Frozen Throne, these decks did not improve massively. Sure, Control Warlock could exist, but it was barely even tier three. While Warlock got Defile, Despicable Dreadlord, and Bloodreaver, it also had cards like Treachery, Blood Queen Lana’thel, and Howlfiend. It wasn’t until Kobolds and Catacombs that Warlock truly rose to prominence.
Over the Edge in Kobolds and Catacombs
Recognising this, Blizzard ramped Warlock’s power level even further in Kobolds and Catacombs. Every single one of Warlock’s ten new class cards saw considerable competitive play (with the potential exception of Cataclysm). With powerhouses like Voidlord, pre-nerf Possessed Lackey, Amethyst Spellstone and Rin, it’s not surprising that Warlock ended up taking over the meta.
Even post-nerf, Kobolds still provides the backbone of not only Control but also Even Warlock, the spiritual successor to Handlock. Cards like Spellstone, Hooked Reaver, and even the neutral Shroom Brewer form the backbone of the deck’s mid-game.
But of course, Kobolds and Knights of the Frozen Throne will not be here forever. What will happen when they leave?
The Coming “Warlockalypse”
With only two expansions between now and Warlock losing almost all of its best cards, the clock is ticking to see what will replace them. It cannot be overstated how catastrophic not receiving enough support in the following two expansions would be. An average Control Warlock will lose all but 12 cards of its current decklist, leaving only a handful of clears and tech options. Evenlock will take less of a hit, but will still lose almost half of its best cards.
Most importantly, this will rob Warlocks of all stripes of virtually all their lifegain options. As we’ve seen in previous metas, late-game Warlock require a baseline level of healing to be viable. Without Spellstone, Dark Pact, Gul’dan, Shroom Brewer, or the like, life-gain will be hard to come by. This could prove to be a problem for those who don’t want to see a return to Warlock’s post-Ungoro wilderness years (well, months).
Preparing Without Buffing
But while Warlock risks losing out in the future, it’s still strong now. How can we prepare for losing so many of its vital tools without overbuffing the class?
One option is to create slightly worse versions of existing cards. Perhaps a Defile alternative that was more expensive with a similar effect (like another Lord Godfrey-eque minion). Or perhaps a life-gain/removal option that wasn’t as powerful as Amethyst Spellstone. Perhaps even an 8 mana Hero Card that wasn’t as powerful as Gul’dan, but could be a nice Jarraxxus alternative for Evenlock.
This way, there would be decent options to sustain Warlock post-rotation, while not vastly improving its power level. These cards could even be added as Commons or Rares, giving newer players good introductory budget options for Warlocks.
And hey, even if Warlock doesn’t get any replacement Control tools, there’s always Zoo!
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